NFC West: Brian Baldinger

Boxing great Marvin Hagler once criticized Thomas Hearns for postponing their fight over a finger injury, suggesting a tougher man would have cut off the appendage before missing a $3 million payday.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott once had part of a finger removed so he could play in a game for the San Francisco 49ers.

I recall seeing Steve McNair shrug off a dislocated finger during a game. Anyone familiar with NFL Network programming has probably noticed Brian Baldinger's pinky, which looks more like a diagram for a post pattern (not a skinny post, either). And Rams fans have probably seen former receiver Torry Holt's mangled finger (a "trophy" he credited with helping him catch passes).

Where does Rams running back Steven Jackson stand on the finger pain spectrum? Jackson has told reporters he plans to play in Week 8 despite undergoing finger surgery Monday, according to Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis.

Mailbag: Seattle and the Mora decision

October, 22, 2008
Posted by's Mike Sando

Rob from San Diego writes: Sando, Is Seattle going to re-think their pick of Jim Mora as head coach in 09'? Our DB's are awful and he is responsible for that unit. Granted there are many other holes in the D.... But it seems to me like it might not be best to decision to hand over the team to a coach that is responsible for the 4th worst rated pass D in the NFL (that just got torched by TB!).

Mike Sando: Mora got credit for the secondary showing improvement in 2007. Are we to assume that he has become a bad secondary coach in the last few months, and that he therefore would not be the right head coach?

My analysis of the Mora hiring would include looking at how defenses have performed when he was a coordinator, and how teams have performed when he was the head coach. That is what I did when the Seahawks hired Mora as defensive backs coach in January 2007. Results here.

To answer your question: No, I do not expect Seattle to change its mind on Mora.

JThomas from Ephrata, Wash., writes: Mike, Given Jim Mora jr.'s U of W ties, do you see him backing out of the Seahawk coaching job to become the Huskies' head coach?

Mike Sando: I wouldn't assume Jim Mora wants the University of Washington job more than the NFL job based on offhand remarks Mora made to his college roommate on a radio show two years ago.

(Read full post)

Around the NFC West: Rams bench Hill

September, 20, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have benched cornerback Tye Hill. Hill and Fakhir Brown were the starting corners heading into the season. Hill has struggled. Ron Bartell became a starter when Brown rested a shoulder injury. Brown is back this week. Bartell will remain in the lineup. Hill is the odd man out, but he could play plenty because Seattle uses three-receiver personnel groupings regularly.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat checks in with Rams receiver Torry Holt on a range of subjects, from the receiver's spectacular 45-yard touchdown catch to the offensive line's inability to protect Marc Bulger so far.

Also from Korte: Second-year Rams fullback Brian Leonard started seven games last season, but he is having a hard time getting on the field.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says Takeo Spikes is becoming more comfortable in the 49ers' defense. Spikes signed with the 49ers after visiting Detroit. He gets a close-up look at the Lions this week.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce pays attention to the little things, particularly when it comes to keeping his 35-year-old body in playing shape. Younger receivers are paying attention.

Also from Barrows: Fox announcer Brian Baldinger was one of the few people to predict J.T. O'Sullivan would win the starting job at quarterback for the 49ers. Baldinger based his prediction on experience watching O'Sullivan in NFL Europe.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers answers reader questions after providing an update from 49ers practice. The team remains concerned about Shawntae Spencer's injured knee.

Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch assesses Tim Hightower's impact as a rookie running back for the Cardinals. Woody: "Hightower graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in religion and politics. He also played a little football there. When Hightower finished at UR, he had the school record for rushing yards (3,712) and touchdowns (39)."

Tom Kowalski of says the Lions must limit the 49ers' big plays in Week 3.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals aren't getting ahead of themselves after two victories. They're happy with Kurt Warner's solid play, but it's only two games, coach Ken Whisenhunt points out.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Keary Colbert and Billy McMullen are the likely starting receivers for Seattle in Week 3.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks' secondary remains embarrassed about its most recent performance while vowing to play better against the Rams.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are still waiting for Courtney Taylor to produce as a receiver. Taylor has impressed in practice over the last year or so, but he has struggled in games. Also, Sean Locklear participated fully in practice. The incumbent right tackle could be available Sunday. Ray Willis has played well enough for Seattle to take its time with Locklear's injury.

On the air: 49ers in Week 3

September, 17, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Fox's Dick Stockton, Brian Baldinger and Brian Billick get the call when the 49ers face the Lions at Candlestick Park in Week 3. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT.

WeekTeamOpp.NetworkCrewCrew Rank
1SFARIFoxSam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers5 of 7
SEAFoxKenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
2 of 7
DETFoxDick Stockton, Brian Baldinger, Brian Billick 3 of 7

Billick also works with Thom Brennaman on Fox's No. 4 crew. Brennaman splits his time between the NFL and play-by-play duties for the Big Ten Network. Billick joins Stockton and Baldinger when Brennaman isn't working NFL games.

CBS and Fox each have seven NFL crews. The higher-ranked crews draw more attractive assignments such as Super Bowls, playoff games and marquee matchups.